Sitting SATs out
Kari Anson explains how, with the agreement of her school, she used her opposition to SATs to devise cross-curricular activities for her Year 5 class.
A stimulating starter for a unit of work on SATs involves playing a recording of excerpts from theBBC Panorama programme ‘Tested to Destruction’ (see resources).
The creatures that children on the programme drew when asked to describe their feelings about SATs can be used as a starting point to discuss with the class their own feelings. For example the children in ‘Tested to Destruction’ describe knots in their stomach, feelings of nausea, pressure, discontent at a lack of a balanced curriculum and an inability to sleep. This exercise can provide a plethora of emotive language, giving rise to wonderful PSHE links.
My next step was to introduce my class to the nature of debate, introducing the terms ‘chair’, ‘motion’, ‘proposer’ and ‘seconder’. The class was then divided into two, each half responsible for researching the arguments to support or reject the motion ‘Key Stage 2 SATs should be scrapped’. A chair, as well as proposers and seconders for both sides of the argument, were chosen well in advance of the final debate.
As part of the research process, the children accessed ICT facilities to conduct research in order to strengthen their position. I encouraged them to find evidence to back up their main arguments.
With the agreement of my Head Teacher, the final debate took place in front of an invited audience of parents, who had the opportunity to vote on the motion together with the class.
On the day of the debate, invited guests entered the ‘floor’ receiving both a red and green voting card. The chair opened the debate by inviting the main speaker to propose the motion, providing just one or two key points to justify the motion.
In my experience, arguments such as SATs encourage a narrowing of the curriculum, place undue pressure on children and are an unfair assessment of a whole Key Stage’s progress have been popular on the anti-SATs side. The need to maintain standards, keep parents informed about their child’s progress and prepare pupils for taking exams later in life are frequently used as counter-arguments.
We adhered to the traditional format of debating, climaxing in the chair asking the floor: “All those in favour of the motion ‘Key Stage 2 SATs should be scrapped’ raise your green cards.” The chair then made a quick visual assessment of numbers. The chair then asked: “All those against the motion ‘Key Stage 2 SATs should be scrapped’ raise your red cards,” and carried out another count. Based on the result, the chair then announced whether the motion was carried or not carried.
In the parental vote at my school, the motion ‘Key Stage 2 SATs should be
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Clips from BBC Panorama ‘Tested to Destruction’
NUT materials on assessment reform www.teachers.org.uk/assessment
‘SATs – Stress Activating Time Snatchers, or Sensible Academic Tests of Success?’ Five Scolastic contributors have their say http://education.scholastic.co.uk/
National Strategy site linked to Year 6 non-fiction unit 3 – argument
node/19369?uc = force_uj
National Strategy site linked to Year 5 non-fiction unit 3 – persuasive writing http://nationalstrategies. standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/19956
British Debate’s primary school programme: Discover Your Voice www.britishdebate.com/schools/
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